This was my second time running the Helvetia 10k Mountain Trail Race. Last year’s run was my baptism in trail racing. It was such a great experience in 2009 that I continued trail running throughout the year and made sure to come back in 2010; this year’s race did not disappoint!
My good (and faster) friend, Nathan Fortney, met me in Clarksburg as I was on my way back from coaching at a cross country meet. I threw my camping gear and running clothes in his car, purchased a strong cup of coffee, and together we hit the interstate traveling South to Helvetia.
We arrived at Dan and Jody Lehmann’s house just as the hash runners were coming in from the trail and the bonfire was getting started. We were surprised to see even more people camping than the previous year, despite the possibility of rain. After setting up our tents, Nathan and I greeted the familiar faces from the previous year’s race, as well as other WVMTR races we’d attended. We also met many new friendly people as the night progressed.
The feast that was presented that evening was impressive; everyone’s covered dishes tasted wonderful and Dan’s hamburgers were awesome. Jody made a mouth watering blueberry dessert. After people had their fill of food, a cake was brought to Dan and Lisa Potts for their birthdays. Everyone sang… and then ate more.
As the evening darkened and cooled, people gathered around the fire for warmth, conversation, and camaraderie. When the rain came later, many of us moved into the house to continue in the fun. I discovered the entertainment of Buckyballs. I also observed the baking of homemade bran muffins, which we ate for breakfast the next morning… thanks again to Jody.
The rain continued overnight, but I stayed dry and comfortable in my tent and awoke ready to run. Everyone soon made their way to the registration area, some even running the 2 miles into town as a warm up. We received our numbers and our nice looking “bull” race T-shirts, and then the kid’s race got started. Everyone lined the street and cheered on the youngsters.
After a short introduction by Dan, our race started appropriately at the ringing of bells as it struck nine o’clock. I was familiar with the course this year and decided to take it a little easier on the first three miles so I could really hit “The Hill” and the final downhill with as much gusto as I could muster. My plan paid off; I felt stronger as the race went on and moved up several spots in position through the final three miles. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the race, and I heard encouragement being given to one another from most of the racers.
I finished nearly two minutes faster than last year, which is a nice improvement. I raced in Vibram FiveFingers Treksports (the weird toe shoes), which I had never done before. A lot of people commented on them and were interested in knowing how they felt during the race. They did really well on the rocky trail and gravel downhill. I didn’t have any bottom foot bruises or stoved toes (thank goodness).
The awards were fine-looking, large, ceramic mugs, but I was not fortunate enough to win one. Overall, the atmosphere during the Helvetia weekend is superb. From arrival to departure, you feel part of the bigger WV running community. Dan and the other WVMTRs treat everyone with great hospitality, and the mixture of friendly runners and the beauty of WV trails make this a great race. Thanks again for a memorable weekend.